Ramblings from a Boston Boy stuck in New York
UMass Football | MAC Is A Good Option
11-January-2011Posted by on
I like to think that I have enough integrity to admit when I am wrong. I recently wrote an article about my opinion on UMass Football joining the Mid-American Conference (MAC). In that article, I talked about how I thought the Big East was a much better choice for UMass. I used arguments about natural rivalries, more financially sound television deals and increased recruiting power (due to Big East affiliation) to promote my position. All these points are sound and make a lot of sense when you look at the MAC versus the Big East. I received a lot of feedback on that article beyond the comments on this blog. After reading through these comments and doing some more research, I concluded one thing: I was wrong! Moreover, the reason that I was wrong was because I overlooked one critical piece in this whole puzzle.
The Missing Piece
Bottom line is that the MAC wants us and the Big East does not. It does not get any simpler than that. The four-year NCAA moratorium on moves to the Football Bowl Series (FBS) ends in August of this year. At that time, schools will be allowed to pursue a move from the Football Championship Series (FCS), where UMass currently resides, to the FBS. In preparation for this timeline, conferences are starting to court potential new members.
Big East Outlook
The Big East is currently looking at Villanova and has shown very little to no interest in UMass. Recently, the Big East added TCU as its ninth football team (starting in the 2011 season) and adding Villanova (who already plays most sports in the Big East) would give them a solid ten-team conference. Adding UMass in addition to Villanova would not only create an uneven number of teams (not a huge problem), but it would also place a team in the league that would recruit heavily from the areas that UConn and Syracuse consider to be their stomping ground. This argument is not even touching the fact that there are already sixteen schools in Big East basketball right now. That number alone would not bode well if UMass was looking for a division they every wanted to go full-time into with all their sports.
The MAC is a completely different story, however. Thirteen football teams make up two divisions in the MAC. The addition of UMass would even out the numbers and probably cause a slight realignment for geographic reasons. Previously, the MAC allowed Temple to join the conference as a football-only member with the stipulation that they play a certain number of their non-conference basketball teams against MAC teams. The same courtesy would be extended to UMass. The real kicker here, however, is Temple football. Conference USA (CUSA) is currently courting them. CUSA wants Temple in all sports; Temple wants a football-only invite. Without Temple, the MAC will not need UMass football to make even divisions and will, most likely, not offer UMass an invitation to the conference.
Make the Move!
You need to be at the dance to get the girl. If the ultimate goal of UMass is to become part of a major football conference (it looks like the ideal spot would be the Big East right now), then they need to be a FBS team. However, they cannot become a FBS team without an invitation from a FBS conference. The MAC is that meal ticket. By going to the MAC, UMass would bring itself into the FBS level of football while maintaining its A-10 affiliation in basketball. The football program could slowly build over the next few years and if/when the Big East split occurs between basketball and football teams, UMass would be in a perfect spot to jump ship to a bigger conference.
What if the Big East Split Does Not Happen?
UMass would still be a FBS football program in a non-automatic qualifying (non-AQ) conference. In the right situation, they would be bowl eligible and, in certain situations, they would even qualify for BCS Bowl games (let’s not get ahead of ourselves though). More important, however, is that if an opening occurred in a bigger conference (perhaps the ACC or Big Ten), UMass would be setting itself up for the move it has been looking for.
Going to the FBS is the right move for UMass Football and moving to the MAC is the only way that is going to happen. The move will allow UMass Football to grow slowly into a FBS team as they play better competition. It will provide UMass with the opportunity to play three to four out-of-conference games against major teams (much like the game against Michigan this year) where they will make even more money as a FBS team than as a FCS team not to mention the national exposure they will receive from such games. Quality play in a ‘mid-major conference’ like the MAC will allow UMass to be bowl eligible and attend smaller bowl games. In turn, the coaching staff will be able to leverage this success into recruiting power, which, in turn, will better the team. Sure, this view is utopian, but the principle of the theory holds.
UMass Football’s best move is the one that puts them in the MAC playing a FBS schedule by 2013!